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  The Argument  
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I am a somewhat moody person. [Gasp -- you're kidding! -- sarcastic Brendan] There are times when all i want to listen to is spaced out ambient droning, then there are times when i want energetic swirling guitars, and then there are times when i want to listen to screamed vocals of sheer unrestrained angst over thundering rhythms and screeching guitars. Sunny days that i have to work through inspire mood 3, and i usually wind up listening to some Fugazi during those moods.

I know that's dorky. I mean, part of the reason sunny days trapped in the office inspire me to drag out Fugazi are their die-hard DIY roots, their strong anti-catpitalist stance, their straight-edge-ness, and their veganism. Fugazi just seem so ... subversive. I admit that i get a sort of rush out of listening to Fugazi on headphones while sitting in some corporate tower slaving away at a computer screen. It's like i am saying "you can economically enslave me, but you can never mentally or emotionally enslave me" to my Corporate Masters. Dorky i know, but there you have it: i listen to Fugazi to prove that i am free.

There's more to it than that of course. Fugazi have released a lot of challenging music over the years. However, you have to be careful. After releasing a few albums of great punk rock, Fugazi became ... experimental. Not like they are doing Sun Ra covers or anything, but they are pushing the limits of their music. I really respect that, and i'm not complaining about it. It's just that, well, every other album has been something of a disappointment. As if they make a significant change in what they are doing, record it, tour, then write another album that has the kinks worked out of the sound. With some Fugazi albums i listen to them a lot right when they come out, and then file them away to be overlooked for other Fugazi albums.

I guess what i am saying is this, Fugazi albums are like Star Trek films: the odd numbered ones are weaker.

For example, Repeater and 13 Songs were both great albums (which screws my theory because number 1 was good, but i am going to overlook this for now), but then you have Steady Diet of Nothing, which i do not listen to, ever. Then came In On The Killtaker, which is one of my favorite albums of all time, which was followed by Red Medicine. I listened to Red Medicine non-stop for about 3 months and then filed it away, never to seek it out again. Red Medicine was followed by End Hits, which took the pseudo jazz of Red Medicine and perfected it. Another classic, IMHO.

The Argument is the next album, so i wasn't expecting much. And yet, this is good. Really good. Damned catchy and, dare i say it, poppy. Yes, Fugazi have made an album that touches on pop.

Oh, the straight-edge kids are going to hate me for that, but it's true. There are keyboards, harmonized backing vocals, cello (!), and catchy guitar hooks strewn about Fugazi's usual wasteland of existential lyrics, screeching and stuttering guitars, and amazing rhythm. There are songs that are so hum-alongable that i wager even Malimus would enjoy them!

This album also uses some of the best beats that Fugazi have put forward to date. Drummer Brendan Canty and bassist Joe Lolly really shine on this album, and it's not like they were "just the rhythm section" before so that is saying something. Ex-Spectator is Canty's finiest moment: the drumming at the beginning of the song is a brilliant little riff. Lolly shines brightest on The Kill and Cashout with two unstoppable bass riffs.

And of course, Fugazi have guitars. Guitars which, on The Argument, fluctuate from the algebraic rhythms that Fugazi are known for (Full Disclosure and Argument especially) to catchy riffing (Epic Problem) to something entirely new for Fugazi, near as i can tell, acoustic (no kidding -- Nightshop features acoustic guitarwork).

But what makes The Argument seem really different comes in some of the other sounds on the disc. Cashout has some nice cellowork from Amy Domingues. Strangelight has an intense keyboard solo in the middle of it, and Argument has some nice keys as well. The Kill has a whistling solo(!) and Nightshop and Life and Limb feature hand claps! No kidding -- it's like 1985 all over again!

Vocally Ian McKaye and Guy Picciotto turn in some of their typically great work. Of course there is their usual leftist ranting, but there are also harmonized vocals, something which i have never associated with Fugazi before. Cashout uses the harmony effect nicely, as does The Kill.

But don't think that all of this means that Fugazi have become The Beach Boys. The music may use some pop effects, but the intensity and the sheer existential tension of Fugazi are still present. Just because they are using pop effects, don't think they've gone all happy on us! It's still the same old Fugazi you know and love just ... different.

When i listen to The Argument and note these little differences i am reminded of that Q And Not U album i got last year. Ian McKaye produced that album, and it was released on Fugazi's own Dischord record label. It used hand claps, keyboards, and vocal harmonies in a way that approximated poppy post-punk new wave. Fugazi seem to be doing that here as well, only they do it much much better. It is as if McKaye learned a few tricks while working with Q And Not U and then decided to try them out with his own band. It really works, at least for me.

This also answers my dilemna, at least part of it. If it takes Fugazi an album to work the kinks out of new musical ideas, some of these kinks were burned on Q And Not U. Also, i forgot about the Instrument soundtrack. This was a soundtrack to a documentary about Fugazi, and is full of studio outtakes and rough demos. As such, it is an interesting listen, but not really on par with their "real" recorded catalog. I had not considered Instrument in my list of Fugazi releases, which is why i wasn't anticpating The Argument too much. However, add Instrument into their discography, consider McKaye's work with Q And Not U, and The Argument comes up as an even numbered release, number 8.

Now i wonder, what will happen with release 9?

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